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 The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has stated that the volume of detained illegal medicines in 2021 remained at a near record high, with its enforcement section detaining 1,604,589 million dosage units of falsified and other illegal products in 2021. Announcing its annual detention figures, the HPRA once again stressed the health dangers associated with sourcing prescription medicines online and advised the general public to only seek medicines from authorised sources. 

In the 12 months of 2021, the most significant categories of illegal products detained included sedatives (46 per cent), anabolic steroids (13 per cent), analgesics (10 per cent) and erectile dysfunction medicines (6 per cent). The breakdown is: 

  • Sedative medicines – 741,492 units detained (583,805 units detained in 2020). 
  • Anabolic steroids – 204,843 units detained (101,683 units detained in 2020). 
  • Analgesic medicines – 161,670 units detained (145,921 units detained in 2020). 
  • Erectile dysfunction – 103,816 units were detained (484,846 in 2020, which included one detention of over 370,000 tablets). 
  • 56,385 units of Covid-19 medicines were detained, including 28,302 units of Ivermectin. 
  • 461 websites, e-commerce listings and/or social media pages amended or shut down. 
  • Five prosecution cases initiated, and seven voluntary formal cautions issued. 

According to Ms Grainne Power, Director of Compliance with the HPRA, the high number of illicit medicines detected in 2021 is very concerning and when combined with the 2020 figures, means that over 3.2 million units were detained over a two-year period. 

“… The HPRA has over many years identified that a significant proportion of detained products are falsely labelled, do not contain accurate information on the strength of active ingredient they contain, or have been found to contain a different ingredient altogether. When you consider also that these products are often delivered without a leaflet, instructions for use or information on the correct dose, the illegal supply of unregulated and potentially fake medicines clearly presents a significant risk to public health,” says Ms Power. 

“Every single one of the tablets, capsules and vials intercepted during 2021 was important. Our detentions disrupt the illicit market and we continue with our ongoing work in this area to disrupt the flow of counterfeit and falsified medicines into Ireland. We know that those who seek to profit from illegal medicines have little regard for the health of the end users they are supplying. Our goal, with a focus on impacting both supply and demand, is to protect the public from the risks associated with products for which there are no guarantees as to what they contain or under what conditions they have been manufactured,” concluded Ms Power.